With the neutralization of Cliff Kincaid’s campaign to misrepresent Frank Marshall Davis’s “radical” influence on Barack Obama, and the auspicious inauguration of President Obama immediately after Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2009, it may be an appropriate time to close the circle between Frank Marshall Davis and Martin Luther King, Jr. When asked to comment on any parallels between Dr. King and Davis, University of Kansas Professor Edgar Tidwell, commonly acknowledged as an expert on the life and writing of Davis, wrote:
“Frank and King are aligned along a historical continuum, in a determined effort to destroy the yoke of racism. People often make the mistake of seeing Dr. King's civil rights work as the only effort made to effect social change in this country. But Frank represents only one of many such efforts, each conducted in different venues. A. Phillip Randolph's famous threatened March on Washington in 1941 (which produced the FEPC), the "Double V" campaign, the work of the NAACP, and much more paved the way for Dr. King. Add to these the various labor initiatives and you have further evidence of predecessors to Dr. King.”
According to Professor Tidwell, THESE were the “radical” goals of Frank Marshall Davis:
(1) integration of armed forces
(2) integration of AFL and CIO
(3) fair wages and other benefits for workers
(4) general dismantling of all laws supporting racial segregation
(5) end to laws supporting anti-Semitism
(6) end to atomic warfare
(7) rights for soldiers in combat zones to vote in national elections
(8) support for Fair Employment Practices Act
(9) support for a broad United Nations (not just US and Great Britain
forming a world power union)
(10) end to restrictive covenants in real estate
Please note that these have mostly become mainstream values since the 20th century. Frank Marshall Davis was not out of line. He was just ahead of his time!
Professor Tidwell also commented:
“I'm hardly interested in proving my research to Kincaid or any of those whose work is a travesty to scholarship. But to address your question thoroughly requires more space and time than I have at the moment. There are obvious similarities, if you depend on Frank's comments in Livin' the Blues. Frank commented that the Black press in the South "split much of the kindling which was ignited a quarter of century later by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and turned into a roaring fire that burned down legal segregation in Dixie" (p. 190). Two different institutions---the Press and the Black church---shared the need to tear down the walls of legal segregation.
I always found it interesting that Frank essentially saw himself as a precursor to King. (Go to his comments about "black defeatists" on p. 194 too.) As much as this may sound like Frank's ego talking, I feel the comparison is much deeper. It's not so much of what Frank claims to have done than it is an endorsement of the many who had the courage to accept their responsibility to "speak truth to power."
As reported by the Associated Press on 18 Jan 09 (http://apnews1.iwon.com//article/20090118/D95POMH80.html):
“"Martin Luther King walked so that Barack Obama could run," said one boy. "Barack Obama ran so that all children could fly," added another, standing a few feet away from the first African-American ever elected president.”
Perhaps we can now complete the circle:
Frank Marshall Davis fought so that Martin Luther King could walk.
Martin Luther King walked so that Barack Obama could run.
Barack Obama ran so that all children could fly.
Congratulations to Barack Obama, on behalf of everyone who has been “waiting to exhale”!